Monday, January 28, 2013


Meaning: an Australian word for the Australia Day public holiday* - originally referring to farmers who 'squatted' on Crown land and grew rich, the term is now used of wealthy Australian pastoralists in general, but particularly those families with a long history** on the land.

Usefulness: 2 (Obviously depends on location and social circle, but could be extended to include the British royal family, what with Australia actually being occupied at the time the land was claimed for the Crown.)

Logofascination: 1 (Learning about this word means learning a little about Australian history and society, and our own attitude toward it. Its decline in use - see here - also hints at the shift towards the 'resource sector' i.e. mining. That's pretty fascinating, I think.)

In the wild: There's a bit more about squatters at wikipedia, and their influence on Melbourne here.

Degrees: 2

Connections: Squattocracy - squat

Which is used in: G&P, Book the First, XXVII: How a monk of Seville saved the close of the abbey from being ransacked by the enemy. Squat is used twice in this passage, once in one of its earliest meanings of to smash or squash, and then meaning to be flattened, out of which evolved our current sense. Rabelais' description of the monk's defense of the abbey is rather gory; among other things he
squattered into pieces the boughts or pestles of their thighs, and so thumped, mauled and belaboured them everywhere, that never was corn so thick and threefold threshed upon by ploughmen's flails as were the pitifully disjointed members of their mangled bodies under the merciless baton of the cross. If any offered to hide himself amongst the thickest of the vines, he laid him squat as a flounder, bruised the ridge of his back, and dashed his reins like a dog. 

*Australia Day itself was Saturday, January 26.
**In Australia, that means 220-odd years at the most. 

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